Australian Solar Industry is one of the leading renewable energy-focused markets globally. Despite the slump in 2020, the pace of expansion picked up in 2021. The government of NSW has announced a Renewable Energy Zone (REZ), which will be the largest facility of its kind in Australia once its operational. This renewable energy zone will be in the New England region of NSW and responsible for producing 8 GW of power.
The New England REZ
The “Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act” (EIIA) 2020 Coordinated energy zone policy sets out geographical area, network capacity and infrastructure that states must utilize to meet their commitments under the Act. The New England REZ is a sizable project, and the announcement is the State’s first step towards a coordinated energy zone under the EIIA 2020.
Renewable energy zones are the modern-day sustainable versions of a power station. SEZs employ storage energy, low-cost renewable power, and modern transmission to provide consumers with a clean, low-cost energy solution.
New England is a resource-rich region with great potential sites to further develop Australia’s energy portfolio. The NSW government will support the project, which has committed $78.9 million as developmental support for the New England REZ. The project paves the way for the sustainable energy future of the State and opens doors for private investments around the tune of $10.7 billion! In addition, the project will boost the local economy by adding 1,250 construction and 830 active jobs to the market.
The venture has attracted widespread interest with more than 80 registrations of interest (ROI) in 2021 of various wind and solar projects with a collective capacity of 34 MW; investor confidence is evident from the registration process.
The infrastructure for the New England REZ will be planned by “EnergyCo.”, a state-owned company. The company will also be responsible for coordinating the storage, firming, energy generation and transmission to ensure successful deliverables. EnergyCo’s coordination efforts will be directed at managing timelines and cooperation with various local stakeholders, from planning to legal nuances of the project.
NSW government also hopes the project will support the local communities that rely on traditional farming by providing landowners with an alternative source of income for a drought-prone region. Landowners with an electricity infrastructure will earn around $660 million in lease payments till 2042. As an added benefit, the REZ will contribute to “the net-zero emission by 2050″ by reducing the current emissions by half.
The government has planned five clean energy sites like the New England REZ, and it expects to generate around $32 billion in investments, renewable power, storage, and transmission. Other planned sites for such projects are Hunter-Central Coast, Central-West Orana, South-West and Illawarra areas with an anticipated generation capacity of 12 GW and a storage limit of 2 GW. The area has had a long history of reliance on coal-fueled power, and the decrepit thermal-power infrastructure of the State comprises five power plants that are set to shut down entirely in the next 15 years. NSW’s coal-based power plant retirement is set to commence in 2023; the Liddell power plant will be the first to shut down in 2023-2024. The REZ and other renewable energy sites were planned to fill the energy gap created by this move.
The New England REZ will be built in stages; the planning process will be flexible and subject to phase-wise completion. The New England government also made calls for “registration of Interest” (ROI) from network, storage, and renewable generator developers. The Central-West Orana Rez was launched in 2021 and attracted 113 registrations valued at $38 billion with a generational capacity of 27 GW. According experts and government officials, the future of energy is nothing but renewable for the region.